Washington, D.C. – Today, the House Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry is holding a public hearing regarding voluntary conservation practices in the rehabilitation of the Chesapeake Bay. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding will be testifying.
NAWG is pleased to see action being taken in discussing the positive effects of voluntary conservation practices on the environment, particularly with recent successes of efforts to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Independent reports have shown positive trends in water quality, habitat, and ecosystems in the Chesapeake Bay, due to a focused conservation effort by the NRCS along with voluntary investment and participation from farmers.
“It is critical that we are taking the steps now to protect our nation’s water sources, including the Chesapeake Bay,” says NAWG President Gordon Stoner, a grower from Outlook, Montana. “Adopting modern conservation practices in my own operation reduces my environmental impact without sacrificing my yields, my profitability, and my productivity. It is vital that growers and NRCS continue to invest in these practices to improve water quality in watersheds around the country.”
The benefits of voluntary conservation practices are many and varied. Producers work to address the specific resources needs on their own operations because they know that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for wheat growers, or for agriculture production as a whole. Farmers are actively participating in practices intended to improve water quality around the country. In the Bay watershed alone, The NRCS has invested over $890 million in federal conservation funding, while farmers and forest landowners voluntarily contribute financial and management resources, increasing the investment by about $400 million. With state and local governments providing substantial assistance, these conservation practices have been successfully implemented in the Bay area, with positive results in reducing erosion, managing nutrients, and restoring populations of Bay wildlife.
Earlier this month, USDA released a Chesapeake Bay Progress Report highlighting the investments in voluntary conservation by the federal government, states and individual farmers. Maryland wheat growers Eric Spates (a NAWG board member) and Jason Scott (chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates) joined USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and NRCS Chief Jason Weller and several other farmer leaders for a conversation about agriculture, voluntary conservation and the Bay at the release of the Progress Report. USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project found that adoption of conservation practices is on the rise, with ninety-nine percent of agricultural acres in the Bay having at least one conservation practices installed. These practices, such as buffer strips, cover crops, reduced tillage and nutrient management efforts are having positive impacts on the health of the bay.
NAWG encourages Congress to continue support for investment in voluntary conservation practices, as it allows farmers to flexibly participate in conservation without unnecessary restrictions and regulatory burdens, while also actively improving the environment in tangible and positive ways.